ACC Previews: Can Miami's Big Three Push Canes Into Top-3 Finish?

Streeter Lecka

It would be incredibly insensitive to make any Hurricane-related puns or jokes right now, so let's just say this: Miami will probably be very good and very dangerous this year. Watch out.

Beware the Hurricanes. Everyone in these parts is so preoccupied with the resurgence of NC State, the underrated (or not) Blue Devils, and the talent-packed-yet-depleted-Tar Heels, that no one is talking about this Miami basketball team. They finished the regular season 19-12 (9-7) and were a win against FSU away from making the NCAA tournament, but have the makings of something special this year.

The only 'Canes gone from last year's squad are Malcolm Grant, who had a truly disappointing senior campaign (and whose loss at shooting guard will not be seriously felt) and DeQuan Jones, a solid defender. Miami has more experience returning than anyone in the conference and there's some serious talent in that mix. 6'11" Kenny Kadji (11 ppg, 5 rpg, 41% from 3) is Miami's answer to Ryan Kelly, a true stretch-4 and a matchup nightmare for opponents. He teams up with (very) big man Reggie Johnson (10 ppg, 7 rpg), who, if he can stay healthy, out of foul trouble and filled with oxygen, may push for ACC player of the year honors. 6'10" Julian Gamble returns for his senior season after missing last year with an injury and will provide very capable backup minutes along with 6'10" Rafael Akpejiori. In the backcourt the Hurricanes return senior point guard Durand Scott (13 ppg, 5rpg, 3 apg) who will duke it out with State's Lorenzo Brown for top dog at the point in the ACC. Also coming back is All-ACC freshman phenom Shane Larkin, who averaged 7 points, 2.5 boards, 2.5 assists and 1.6 steals per game in only a little over 25 minutes. Rion Brown, Trey Mckinnie Jones, and Garrius Adams are all upperclassmen who shared time at the 3, kicking in a cumulative 19 points and 8 rebounds per game. All of them can shoot the three.

The Canes' recruiting class is nothing to spend much time on. They add 6'11" Tonye Jekiri, who is a serious shot blocker/rebounder but a project on offense and 6'2" redshirt frosh Bishop Daniels, who was a 3-star SG recruit out of John Wall's Word of God academy in Raleigh. (Incidentally , this means that over a third of Miami's roster is from North Carolina. Odd.)

A look at the numbers from last year indicates that Miami had few glaring weaknesses and yet few impressive strengths. They were just a real solid team that got victimized on the offensive boards from time to time because they had only one true post-player who spent a chunk of the year injured. With a healthy low post and another year of experience for virtually the entire squad, it's very reasonable to see them getting to 22 wins and a 10 or 11 win ACC campaign, and an NCAA berth. They will have their work cut out for them though, as they play Duke, UNC and FSU twice each.

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